O Preacher(Please play video at end.)  The existence of an organization like “Black Lives Matter” (http://blacklivesmatter.com/is only one indicator of America’s racial divide.  How can we ever bridge it?  If we think about it, we realize racial schism stems from a deeper divide–the one between us and God.  Today’s text, the fourth sermon in “The Acts Eight”, speaks to both.

Accompanied by fellow-believers from Joppa, along with Cornelius’ three
messengers, Peter has arrived at Caesarea.   The Roman centurion has invited
family and friends to hear what Peter has to say.  We should note that God
called this meeting.  Remember how he gave visions to Cornelius (Acts 10:3-6)
and Peter (Acts 10:10-16)?   (See theoldpreacher.com/visions?/He has orchestrated this unusual encounter.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (10:34,35).

Peter admits he now understands his “zoo” vision.  God doesn’t play favorites.  We shouldn’t skim over Peter’s admission.  It’s as mind-blowing as a religious white supremacist realizing God accepts the loudest Black Lives Matter protester!  For long rabbis had taught what the Old Testament didn’t–that Gentiles (all non-Jews) were “unclean”.   On this day God is righting racism by the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ . . .

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached . . . (10:36,37).

Peter knows Cornelius knows about current events, but he’ll review them anyway.

God sent a message to Israel . . .  The message is the good news of peace.  Peace here isn’t a serene feeling, but the state of reconciliation with God . . . God told this message of peace through Jesus Christ (that is, Jesus Messiah, God’s Anointed One, long-promised by the prophets) . . . Jesus Christ is Lord (Master, Ruler, Sovereign) of all.  He’s not a parochial deity:  he is Lord of all.  His gospel of peace is for Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Having summarized Jesus’ identity and message, Peter now turns to Jesus’ actions . . .

–how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.  “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree,  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen– by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead (10:38-41).

Jesus clearly possessed power–power to do good and to heal people dominated by the devil.  The source of that power was God the Holy Spirit.  “We (the apostles)”, says Peter, “saw it all.”  Peter isn’t telling a passed-around story; he’s testifying to what he saw with his own eyes.  That included Jesus’ death at the hand of the Jews.  And–this is the heart of apostolic preaching–“God raised him from the dead . . . ”  God had previously chosen witnesses–those who ate and drank with him alive after the grave–so they could verify Jesus-in-the-flesh was back from the grave.

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (10:36-43).

Peter sees himself (as do the other apostles) as a man under command:  To testify to a double-sided truth.  One, Jesus is the God-appointed judge of the living and the dead.  Everyone must stand in his courtroom and answer to him.  Every human who has  ever lived must give an account of himself/herself to the Risen Lord of All.

Two, (and here Peter points back to what the prophets told about Messiah):  “everyone who believes in [the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  This is the gospel of peace, the gospel of reconciliation with God.

The Holy Spirit Falls.

Peter gets no chance to lead his hearers in “the sinner’s prayer”.  Instead, God the Holy Spirit interrupts.  Why this extraordinary intervention?  Because these are Gentiles.  People counted “unclean” by the rabbis.  Romans who stand outside the promises of God.  But on this day in this house, a frontier has been crossed.  A Jew has preached the gospel of God’s peace through Jesus Christ to non-Jews.  And God wants to show his approval.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,  “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days (10:44-48).

* * *

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.  No one—regardless of race, gender or politics—is barred from coming to God through Jesus Christ’s gospel of peace.  And at the cross, everyone is the same.  Race is secondary.  Gender is secondary.  Politics are secondary.  Jesus Christ is all in all.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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